The FA Cup is a tournament that never fails to disappoint and this round of fixtures has been no different. Whilst a lot of English football’s top sides did unsurprisingly cruise to victory against lower league opposition, there were also so many shock results that it would be difficult to mention them all.
There were 12 matches in which one team has either beaten or drawn with opposition at least one league above them. Yes, some of these haven’t been entirely unexpected; Derby drew with Southampton at home and whilst Southampton are a Premier League side, only 7 positions separate them and there’s a reasonable chance they could be playing in the same league next season. It could be said that this was also the case when Bristol City beat Huddersfield 1-0, the two sides only being 11 positions apart.
However, it’s safe to say round 3 had its fair share of complete surprises. Championship sides Ipswich, Norwich, Preston and Sheffield United were all knocked out by lower opposition, not to mention the Blades opponent’s being non-league side Barnet. Perhaps the most staggering results came against a couple of the other Premier League teams though. Fulham have been struggling in the league and now it’s safe to say their cup performances haven’t been much better. They hosted managerless League 2 side Oldham and when they took the lead early in the second half it looked as if Fulham would comfortably take the win. Yet, Oldham showed great desire to turn the match around stealing a 1-2 win and booking their place in the next round. The same result occurred later that evening when Newport welcomed Leicester City to Rodney Parade. Newport are a side who have already proven they can compete with anyone after forcing a replay against Tottenham at Wembley in this competition last year. Leicester would not have underestimated their opponents and this could be seen through their reasonably strong lineup. Having said this, it wasn’t enough to prevent them suffering a 2-1 defeat in a game which Newport had to take the lead twice.
As for English football’s top 6, things were much more straight forward. Manchester United and Chelsea both comfortably beat Championship sides Reading and Nottingham Forest 2-0. On paper, Arsenal’s trip to Blackpool looked as if it could provide the Gunners with a few problems, but this didn’t turn out to be the case. Youngster Willock was outstanding scoring twice and helping his side to a 0-3 victory. Things were even easier for Tottenham and Manchester City who both put 7 past their opponents Tranmere and Rotherham. Premier League leaders Liverpool are the only side from the top 6 yet to play. Their fixture against Wolves could prove to be slightly more difficult for a few reasons. Playing away against any Premier League side is never going to be easy regardless and, given how desperate they will be to remain at the top of the table, Klopp may be tempted to play a weakened side and rest a few key players tonight. No one could blame Liverpool if they chose to prioritise the league after not winning it for so long, but this could make them suffer in less significant competitions like the FA Cup.
Once tonight’s match has been played, we will discover the fates of those sides who have made it through when the 4th round draw is made. Whilst the lower league sides will be desperate for this cup run to continue, they will more likely be hoping for a trip to one of the Premier League big boys, something which will greatly boost the fans and the club as a whole. Anticipation will be building as we wait to discover who will be playing who.